Thursday Troubleshooter: The doctor won't let me tell my patients goodbye when I retire

I want to be able to tell my patients goodbye!

Jun 20th, 2013
Thurstrouble June 20

QUESTION: I will be retiring soon from the dental practice where I have worked for over 40 years as a hygienist. My employer does not want me to tell my patients so the office "will have a chance" without me. I have many patients who I have developed wonderful relationships with, and to just "disappear" without a hug seems so sad to me! Any thoughts?

ANSWER FROM JUDY KAY MASOULF, founder of Practice Solutions, Inc.:
The reality is the office will lose many more patients if they don’t inform them of your retirement and just surprise them with a new hygienist at their next visit. I suggest you ask to meet with the doctor(s) and office manager to talk about the transition and how best to help your patients stay with the practice. Tell the doctor and manager you would like to inform your patients at their recare appointments that you’ll be retiring, and how thrilled you are to have someone as wonderful as (whoever will be replacing you) take over their care. Tell the doctor that you will reinforce the benefits of staying with the practice, and you will introduce patients to their wonderful new hygienist. Tell them that you will reassure patients that you will review their charts with the new hygienist, and discuss their preferences and any potential treatment questions or concerns. Patient retention is extremely good when patients are introduced to their new care provider by their current provider who they like and trust. Good luck!

First let me thank and congratulate you for over 40 years of continued service in the dental field. It is because of dedicated professionals like you that dentistry continues to help people understand the importance of good oral hygiene to their overall health. Now to address your concern — I definitely think that you should tell your patients about your upcoming retirement. As the front office person, I can tell you that patients can get very upset when they find out that the hygienist they have come to depend on and trust is no longer in the office.

I once worked for a practice that did just this type of exit. No warning was given to the patients; they just arrived to a new hygienist. For some people this was no big deal, but for others it was the loss of not only their favorite hygienist, but also the loss of a friend. Patients can feel betrayed and often do not understand why the dental team would not let them know about such an important change.

There are many ways to make this announcement. You can put it in a patient newsletter, send a letter to your existing recare patients, or even have a going away party. After all, 40 years is something to celebrate! I strongly encourage you to go to your dentist and explain the importance of not only having the opportunity to say goodbye to your patients, but to give them the same courtesy. Why risk upsetting patients and having them look elsewhere for their treatment when the dental team can prepare them for this change and introduce them to their new hygienist.

If your dentist still does not agree to this, a possible solution might be to ask the front office person to contact you if any patients would like to speak to you. This would be a way for you to say goodbye and not go against the dentist's wishes. I hope this helps, and again, thank you for all that you have done to help educate and treat dental patients in your practice!

Best wishes in your retirement!

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